What we do is different than advertising. It is different than traditional, narrowly-defined PR. It is different than direct. But what we do - word of mouth marketing using social media methods - must be comparable to the more established disciplines or our programs won't grow beyond enthusiast clients and "try-and-learn" scenarios.
There are those who believe that social media marketing initiatives should not be measured quantitatively. They must be measured that way. the problem is that we are all missing a "value" or a set of values that we can all agree on.
I started by saying that what we do is different. Here's how:
- We activate third party word of mouth - neutral and positive mentions of a brand, experience, issue. Those mentions produce "impressions" that are more valuable than traditional display or search advertising because someone feels strongly enough about the topic to "relay" it along. WOM ranks higher in almost every measure of trust than advertising and media.
- Much of our work is more "engaging" than other means of communication or marketing. That means that people spend more time with it, often participate in some way and can become more "invested" in our experience due to that time and contribution they make. That is more valuable than simply "seeing" an ad or seeing that ad 5 times.
- Our programs offer deepening levels of participation and engagement. We have different approaches for different clients and different marketing challenges. And at the far end of the engagement scale, we can involve customers so deeply, so authentically, so personally that they become brand advocates or loyalists. All you have to do is look at Virginia Miracle's "Brands for a Weekend" thread to get that.
- Certain types of word of mouth programs can develop greater trust between a company and its customers. We exist in the nexus of marketing and communications - relevant to both brand marketer and corporate public relations practitioners.
All of this is hard to measure. Harder still is making it a predictive model - "If I just ad $10k more budget to my WOM program I get this..." But this year, we will see the next evolution of social media and word of mouth marketing measurement.
For us, that will start with an assesment of an "attention" factor - to what degree will you pay attention to a advertisement, media-mention, or word of mouth recommendation/mention for a certain product or service. All of the research on the broad category of WOM suggests that personal WOM commands more attention. Now we want to demonstrate that on a client-by-client basis. That will start to illustrate the greater value that WOM provides - over and above the value of advertising per se.
Next we need an ad equivalency model. I wish we didn't but based upon all of the conversations I have had with clients on the marketing side, we need that.
That leaves making WOM more predictive. Only experience will give us enough data and even then, the discipline will behave more like public relations - we can put all the best conditions in place to activate and amplify talk and it will either happen or it won't. Still with more complex case studies under our belt, we will continue to build a strong knowledge base of what works best.
A lot of folks are exploring measurement. Here are some interesting posts and resources:
What's your model?